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Showing posts from November, 2015

Why Sleep? Why Dream?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn is the creator, writer and host of "Closer to Truth," a public television series and online resource that features the world's leading thinkers exploring humanity's deepest questions. Kuhn is co-editor, with John Leslie, of "The Mystery of Existence: Why Is There Anything at All?" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). Kuhn contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

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A Prehistoric Murder Mystery: Earth's Worst Mass Extinctions

Paul Wignall is the author of "The Worst of Times: How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions" (Princeton University Press). Beginning 260 million years ago, this phase included the worst mass extinction in Earth's history at the end of the Permian period, another mass extinction at the end of the Triassic period and several more major crises. The crises of this worst-ever 80 million years all share many features in common, especially intense global warming and remarkable changes in the ocean that led to widespread stagnation.


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The Future of Driverless Vehicles (Roundtable)

Jeffrey Miller, IEEE member and associate professor of engineering practice at the University of Southern California, contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. Void of personal and professional opinions, this announcement did a great service for the driverless vehicle industry, promoting awareness of this emerging technology. In late August, IEEE —the world's largest professional organization of engineers — hosted a roundtable at the University of Southern California to discuss the current condition and future development of the autonomous vehicle industry.


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Cobwebs Hold Genetic Secrets About Spiders and Their Prey

You may want to think twice before vacuuming up any pesky cobwebs you find around your home — these messy spider lairs may contain valuable information (valuable to scientists, that is). Knowing exactly which species of spider built a web in a certain area, as well as knowing what that spider feasted on, is important information for researchers in a variety of fields — from conservation ecology to pest management, said study lead author Charles C.Y. Xu, a graduate student in the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme (MEME) in evolutionary biology, a joint program hosted by four European universities and Harvard University in the United States. "There's a variety of different methods to study [spiders]," Xu told Live Science.


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The Latest: Islands plead for tough global warming deal

PARIS (AP) — The latest news from the U.N. climate conference that began Monday in Paris. All times local:


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Is Digital Hoarding a Mental Disorder (And Do You Have It)?

A man who takes thousands of digital pictures weekly and spends hours every day organizing the photos on his computer could have a condition that, until now, has never been described in medical literature. The patient might have "digital hoarding disorder," according to the authors of a recent report on the man's case. The clutter fills his Amsterdam apartment and prevents him from inviting anyone over to visit, according to the report, which was published Oct. 8 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

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Eyes May Offer Window into Cardiovascular Disease

Vision problems may sometimes be the only symptom a person has of a serious cardiovascular condition, a new case report suggests. The man was diagnosed with "amaurosis fugax," a condition in which a person loses vision in one eye, usually for a few minutes at a time, because of an interruption of blood flow in an artery.

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Buried or Open? Ancient Eggshells Reveal Dinosaur Nesting Behaviors

The fragile remains of 150-million-year-old eggshells are helping researchers figure out what kinds of nests dinosaurs created for their eggs, according to a new study. A comprehensive look at 29 types of dinosaur eggs suggests that most dinosaurs buried their eggs in nests covered with dirt and vegetation, a tactic also used by modern-day crocodiles. But some small theropods (mostly meat-eating, bipedal dinosaurs) that were closely related to birds used another strategy: They laid their eggs in open nests, much like most birds do today, the researchers found.


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Bizarre Ancient Sea Creature Was Well-Armed for Feeding

Tribrachidium was a denizen of the shallow seas about 550 million years ago, during the late Ediacaran period. Oddly, Tribrachidium had three-fold symmetry, meaning three segments  were mirror images of each other. "Because we have no obvious modern comparison, that's made it really hard to work out what this organism was like when it was alive — how it moved, if it moved, how it fed, how it reproduced," said Imran Rahman, a research fellow at the University of Bristol, in the United Kingdom, who led the study.


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7-Million-Year-Old Fossils Show How the Giraffe Got Its Long Neck

For years, there has been scant fossil evidence showing how the giraffe evolved to have such an admirably long neck. "We actually have an animal whose neck is intermediate [in length] — it's a real missing link," said Nikos Solounias, a professor of anatomy at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) College of Osteopathic Medicine and the lead researcher on the study. The creature in question — Samotherium major —lived during the Late Miocene in the forested areas of Eurasia, ranging from Italy to China, Solounias said.


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China plans to launch carbon-tracking satellites into space

China plans to launch satellites to monitor its greenhouse gas emissions as the country, estimated to be the world's top carbon emitter, steps up its efforts to cut such emissions, official news agency Xinhua said on Monday. News of the plan comes as more than 150 world leaders arrived in Paris for climate change talks and Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama said they would work together towards striking a deal that moves towards a low-carbon global economy. According to the Xinhau report, the country's first two carbon-monitoring satellites will be ready by next May after four years of development led by Changchun Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics and Physics, part of China's Academy of Sciences.


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Hypersonic rocket engine could revolutionize space flight

By Matthew and Stock Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines are developing a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies. The company recently announced a strategic investment from BAE Systems of 20.6 million pounds ($31.4 million USD), in addition to a grant funding of 60 million pounds ($.4 million USD) from the British government, to accelerate the development of their unique SABRE engine. SABRE, which stands for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, is designed to enable aircraft to operate from a standstill on the runway to hypersonic flight in the atmosphere, and then transition to rocket mode for spaceflight.

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Japanese scientists create touchable holograms

A group of Japanese scientists have created touchable holograms, three dimensional virtual objects that can be manipulated by human hand. Using femtosecond laser technology the researchers developed 'Fairy Lights, a system that can fire high frequency laser pulses that last one millionth of one billionth of a second. The pulses respond to human touch, so that - when interrupted - the hologram's pixels can be manipulated in mid-air.

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'Spooky Action' Heats Up: Atoms Entangled at Room Temperature

The world of the very small can get pretty wacky — particles can be in two or more places at once, and even become entangled, wherein actions on one entity can affect its partners across the cosmos. Physicists have broken all kinds of records in proving the existence of so-called quantum entanglement, and now, they have done it again, coupling together thousands of atoms at room temperature. This new achievement could one day be applied to enable more sensitive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, superpowerful quantum computers and even unhackable quantum communications networks unhackable by any known current technologies, researchers say.


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Humpback Whales Make Migration Pit Stops at Underwater Mountains

Underwater mountains are key stopovers in the migratory routes of an endangered population of humpback whales in the South Pacific, new research shows. Previous research had revealed that humpback whales migrating from breeding grounds off the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa swim in nearly straight lines in the Atlantic Ocean without noticeable stops and in relatively narrow corridors. Similar migration patterns were seen among humpbacks migrating from breeding grounds off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

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Franken Flatworms Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species

Call them Franken flatworms. Scientists have created worms with the heads and brains of other species just by manipulating cell communication. The researchers did not alter the flatworms' DNA in any way, but instead manipulated proteins that control conversations between cells.


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Progesterone May Not Lower Risk of Repeated Miscarriage

Pregnant women who have had several miscarriages in the past are sometimes given progesterone supplements, in hopes of avoiding another miscarriage. In the study, researchers found no difference in birth rates between women who received progesterone treatments during their first trimester of pregnancy and those who received a placebo at that time. Among the women given the supplements, 65.8 percent maintained their pregnancy, compared to 63.3 percent of those given the placebo.

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Another American Ebola Survivor Had Eye Problems

Ebola survivor Dr. Ian Crozier wasn't the only American to experience eye problems following the disease — a new report describes eye problems in another American doctor who lived through the disease. Dr. Richard Sacra, who works for the Christian mission organization SIM USA, contracted Ebola last year while caring for pregnant women in Liberia during the rise of the Ebola outbreak there.

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Why Menstruation Remains a Medical Mystery

Humans are among the few species in which the process occurs, and although researchers have ideas about why menstruation happens, there are many unknowns. But a better understanding of the hows and whys of menstruation is needed, researchers say. "There's so much we don't understand about why this repeated event of shedding and repair happens," said Dr. Hilary Critchley, an ob-gyn and reproductive health researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

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Debris from U.S. rocket recovered off coast of southwest England

Debris from a U.S. rocket, most likely the doomed SpaceX Falcon 9, has been recovered near the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of southwest England, the UK coastguard has said on Friday. It was covered in barnacles and was initially mistaken for a dead whale. Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement that a piece of metal alloy was recovered with the help of a local boatman.


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Spaceflight Is Entering a New Golden Age, Says Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos

Early Monday (Nov. 23), the private spaceflight company Blue Origin made a major stride in the pursuit of fully reusable rockets, when it launched an uncrewed vehicle into space and then soft-landed the rocket booster on the ground. "It was one of the greatest moments of my life," said Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin's founder, speaking about the landing in a press briefing yesterday (Nov. 24). "And my teammates here at Blue Origin, I could see felt the same way.


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Turkey and Football: How Astronauts Celebrate Thanksgiving in Space

Thanksgiving in space will be a lot like the holiday down here on the ground — minus the gravity, of course. Like most Americans, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren have Thanksgiving (Nov. 26) off, and they'll spend the day aboard the International Space Station (ISS) watching football and enjoying a turkey-centric feast, agency officials said. Kelly and Lindgren gave viewers a look at that feast in a special Thanksgiving video this week, breaking out bags of smoked turkey, rehydratable corn, candied yams and potatoes au gratin.


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Scientists seek to harvest electricity from algae in green-energy effort

By Chris Arsenault TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists are making progress in harnessing electricity from algae in what could be a breakthrough in green-energy technology to combat climate change, although mass-market applications are years away, new research suggests. The technology utilizes the process of photosynthesis by algae, one of the most common microorganisms on earth, according to a Concordia University engineering professor leading the research. Algae naturally creates electrons during photosynthesis, and metal probes stuck into the plant can capture that energy and transfer it into electricity for batteries, he said on Wednesday.

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Scientists seek to harvest electricity from algae in green-energy effort

By Chris Arsenault TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists are making progress in harnessing electricity from algae in what could be a breakthrough in green-energy technology to combat climate change, although mass-market applications are years away, new research suggests. The technology utilizes the process of photosynthesis by algae, one of the most common microorganisms on earth, according to a Concordia University engineering professor leading the research. Algae naturally creates electrons during photosynthesis, and metal probes stuck into the plant can capture that energy and transfer it into electricity for batteries, he said on Wednesday.

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Infections with Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Virus Can Cause Brain Inflammation, Death

Catching the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya usually leads to fever and severe pain, but a new study shows it may also lead to inflammation in the brain, and even death in some people. In the study, researchers looked at an epidemic of the virus on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, that lasted from 2005 to 2006 and sickened 300,000 people. As a result of their infections, 24 people developed encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and four of these people died from their infection.

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Liberia Suffers New Ebola Death, Despite Being 'Ebola-Free'

The death of a 15-year-old boy from Ebola in Liberia — a country that has been declared free of the disease twice — raises the question of why cases are still popping up in the country, experts say. Although infectious disease experts expect to see new cases crop up shortly after a country is declared Ebola-free — often because of cases that weren't accounted for — in this case, Liberia had gone several months without any new Ebola cases, Adalja said. Liberia was first declared Ebola-free in May, but then a new case was confirmed in July.

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'The Good Dinosaur': Could Humans and Dinos Coexist?

What if the dinosaur-killing asteroid never slammed into Earth and the paleo-beasts weren't vanquished from our planet 66 million years ago? The movie maker's answer — that a young Apatosaurus would meet and befriend a cave boy — is cute, but totally off the mark, several paleontologists told Live Science. "It's completely impossible," said Thomas Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, referring to dinosaurs ever being alive alongside humans — something that could never happen if the dinosaurs were to survive.


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The Thanksgiving Sky: The Moon Meets a Bright Star at Dawn

As the moon moves around the Earth in its monthly orbit, it often passes in front of background stars. Such events are called "lunar occultations" and one will happen Thursday at dawn in a Thanksgiving lunar treat.


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Massive Rocks May Explain Moon's Mysterious Tilt

The mysterious tilt of the moon's orbit is due to gravitational tugs it received from giant, close-passing rocks that eventually slammed into the Earth, new research suggests. The leading explanation for the moon's origin is that a Mars-size rock called Theia struck the newborn Earth about 4.5 billion years ago, and the moon coalesced from the disk of debris that resulted from this crash. However, the moon's current orbit is tilted about 5 degrees with respect to Earth.


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Thanksgiving in Space: What Astronauts Eat On Turkey Day (Video)

Astronauts give thanks and preview their "traditional" space meal in a video greeting from the International Space Station just in time for Thanksgiving. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly, who is nearing the end of his one-year mission, and Kjell Lindgren took a moment to celebrate the season in a video preview of their Thanksgiving dinner, where they discussed what they're thankful for and grabbed a few quick bites of their zero-gravity feast. The two NASA astronauts, along with Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, will get the day off from their 250-mile-high (400 kilometers) research on Thursday, and will share their Thanksgiving meal with the others aboard the space station: Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov.


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Full Moon Rises Tonight in Pre-Thanksgiving Lunar Show

The full moon tonight (Nov. 25) moon will be at its best tonight at 5:44 p.m. EST (2244 GMT), but to the average skywatcher, the moon can appear full in the day before and the day after the actual event. November's full moon is traditionally known among Native Americans as the Full Beaver Moon. The name Beaver Moon dates back to the Algonquin tribes and early U.S. colonists, apparently because November was the best month to set traps for the small, industrious mammal to gather warm furs for the winter, according to our skywatching columnist Joe Rao.


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'Inside Einstein's Mind': New TV Show Explores Journey to Relativity

Chances are high that the name Albert Einstein popped into your head. Now, on the 100th anniversary of what is arguably Einstein's greatest accomplishment — the publication of his theory of general relativity — PBS and Nova are celebrating his work and giving viewers insights into the man behind the theory. "Inside Einstein's Mind" guides viewers through the life and thought processes that led Einstein to publish his theory.


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Hypergiant Star's Weight Loss Secrets Revealed (Video)

Massive stars that are close to the end expand dramatically into enormous red giants, and the gargantuan red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris, located around 3,800 light-years from Earth, is one of the biggest. A new video of VY Canis Majoris here offers a zoomed-in view on the hypergiant. New observations from the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chilecaught VY Canis Majoris in greater detail than ever before as the giant star shed mass.


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Drug driving suit mimics taking the wheel stoned

By Jim Drury A simulation suit that mimics the effects on wearer's reactions of taking illegal substances has been developed by scientists to show young drivers the dangers of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs. A kinetic device in the suit's gloves produces a tremor akin to that caused by some illicit drugs. Random flashing lights in the goggles' peripheral area, allied to hallucinogenic-type sounds in the headphones, combine to disorientate drivers.

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Costco Chicken Salad Linked to E. Coli Outbreak in 7 States

An outbreak of E. coli bacteria tied to chicken salad sold at Costco has sickened 19 people in seven states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patients are infected with a strain of E. coli called O157:H7, which produces a harmful toxin called Shiga toxin. Five people have been hospitalized, and two of those people have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be caused by the Shiga toxin.

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A Pill for ISIS Supersoldiers? Not So Fast

ISIS fighters are using an illegal drug known as Captagon, according to news reports. Captagon is actually a combination of two drugs, theophylline and amphetamine, said Nicolas Rasmussen, a professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of New South Wales in Australia. The combination itself is inactive in the body, but when the body breaks it down into the two component parts, each part becomes active, Rasmussen told Live Science.

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7 Tips to Make Thanksgiving More Enjoyable for People with GERD

For many Americans, Thanksgiving revolves around food, family, football and giving thanks. "The primary reason Thanksgiving can be difficult for GERD sufferers is that people tend to overstuff themselves," said Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. People with GERD can get into trouble by eating too much overall, eating too much within a short time and eating bothersome foods that frequently trigger reflux, Wolf said.

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Light-Bending Microchip Could Fire Up Quantum Computers

Although this advance will not enable faster-than-light starships, the light-warping technology behind this innovation could lead to new light-based microchips and help enable powerful quantum computers, researchers said. Exceeding this speed limit should lead to impossible results such as time travel, according to Einstein's theory of relativity.


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Charitable Acts Can Lead to Bad Behavior

After donating to a major fundraiser in the Netherlands, participants in a new study became less interested in behaving in an environmentally friendly manner. People may feel good about themselves after acting charitably, feeling like they have a license to behave a little worse later, said study leader Marijn Meijers, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. "After you do something moral or laudable, you're more likely to behave a little less laudable," Meijers told Live Science.

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Cause of Mysterious Snake Die-Off Found

The culprit behind a disease that causes raised blisters, crusted-over eyes and snouts, discolored skin patches, and ultimately death in several snake species has been identified. A fungus called Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola is responsible for the snake deaths in the American Midwest and East, researchers now say. Researchers had suspected O. ophiodiicola was responsible for snake fungal disease (SFD) because they had found the fungus on snakes that died of SFD in the past.


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Slipping into a Food Coma? Blame Your Gut Microbes

When you push away your plate, loosen your belt and announce, "I couldn't manage another bite!" it may be your gut microbes talking, according to a new study. About 20 minutes after a person eats, E. coli bacteria, which are common in the human gut, produce proteins that scientists have connected to a hormone responsible for appetite suppression response in the brain. This is one of the first studies to explore the mechanisms that connect microbial activity to responses in the human body associated with behavior.


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Meteor Showers on Mercury May Explain Astronomical Puzzle

Mercury can experience meteor showers as Comet Encke periodically peppers the planet's tenuous atmosphere with dust, new research suggests. Compared to Earth's and Mars' atmospheres, Mercury's is much less substantial — made of just clouds of atomic particles formed from surface ejections or the solar wind — but the particles still have an effect on the exosphere, the outer fringe of its atmosphere. The new Mercury finding came after scientists were puzzled by a strange pattern in calcium observed in the thin atmosphere of the crater-filled planet.


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Manned Mission to Mars Must Not Ignore Human Struggles, Expert Stresses

A successful crewed Mars campaign must recognize, and take pains to ameliorate, the psychological and cultural challenges that Red Planet pioneers will face, a prominent space architect says. For example, a manned mission to Mars must take into account sojourning astronauts' lengthy isolation from friends and family, said Marc Cohen, of the California-based company Astrotecture. "Ironically, the same can-do spirit that characterized so many of the successes throughout the space age also blinds the current crop of Mars advocates to the profound challenges of habitability that lie ahead," Cohen said Nov. 4 during a presentation to NASA's Future In-Space Operations working group.


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U.S. Air Force official sees issues with space launch priorities

By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could struggle to promote competition in its space launch program while also maintaining two independent ways to launch satellites and ending U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines, a top U.S. Air Force official said on Tuesday. ULA, the monopoly provider of such launches since its creation in 2006, said it was unable to submit a bid in compliance with the competition's rules because of how the contest was structured, and because it lacked Russian-built RD-180 engines for its Atlas 5 rocket. The Pentagon last month refused to grant ULA a waiver from a U.S. law that banned use of the Russian engines for military and spy satellite launches after 2019.

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U.S. Air Force official sees issues with space launch priorities

By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could struggle to promote competition in its space launch program while also maintaining two independent ways to launch satellites and ending U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines, a top U.S. Air Force official said on Tuesday. ULA, the monopoly provider of such launches since its creation in 2006, said it was unable to submit a bid in compliance with the competition's rules because of how the contest was structured, and because it lacked Russian-built RD-180 engines for its Atlas 5 rocket. The Pentagon last month refused to grant ULA a waiver from a U.S. law that banned use of the Russian engines for military and spy satellite launches after 2019.

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Billionaire Battle: Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk Square Off on Reusable-Rocket Test

A reusable-rocket milestone has sparked a mini-squabble between two of the billionaires who are helping transform the private spaceflight industry. On Monday (Nov. 23), Blue Origin — a company established by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos —launched a rocket into suborbital space and then brought it back down for a soft landing at a pad in West Texas. The uncrewed test marked a big step toward full rocket reusability, which could open the heavens to human exploration by dramatically lowering the cost of spaceflight, Bezos said.


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Fan-Designed Lego Saturn V Moon Rocket Qualifies for Product Review

A fan-designed scale model of NASA's historic Saturn V rocket has landed on Lego's launch pad and is now waiting an official "go/no-go" call as to whether it will lift off as a commercial set. The 3-foot-tall (1 m) version of the iconic Apollo 11 booster climbed to its qualifying 10,000th vote on Friday (Nov. 20) on the Lego Ideas website. The rocket, designed by Felix Stiessen and Valerie Roche, will now be considered by the Danish toymaker for possible production when it convenes its next review in January.


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Don't Spill the Beans: Zero-G Cup Lets Astronauts 'Smell the Coffee'

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are testing beverage cups that let them literally wake up and smell the coffee. But astronauts have been testing out some strangely shaped cups that keep liquid under control well enough to contain tasty juice or scalding coffee in an open-topped container, and hold it steady even while astronauts do flips or toss the cups back and forth. "Astronauts' responses when testing out the cups so far range from 'Hey, you can smell the coffee,' to 'This is eerily like drinking on Earth,'" representatives from the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics said in a statement.


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Gecko's amazing wall-walking talent is all in the genes

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Geckos boast one of the most impressive talents of any animal: the ability to scamper up a smooth wall or across a ceiling with ease. Scientists on Tuesday said they have sequenced the genome of the gecko species Gekko japonicus, or Schlegel's Japanese gecko, and found the genetic underpinning of the lizard's gravity-defying feat. The scientists found in Gekko japonicus an expansion in the genes related to beta-keratin, accounting for the gecko's ability to generate its setae.


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Better batteries to beat global warming: A race against time

One of the key technologies that could help wean the globe off fossil fuel is probably at your fingertips or in your pocket right now: the battery. If batteries can get better, cheaper and store more power ...


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Blue Origin Makes Historic Reusable Rocket Landing in Epic Test Flight

The private spaceflight company Blue Origin just launched itself into the history books by successfully flying and landing a reusable rocket. Powered by the company's own BE-3 engine, the rocket kicked off the launchpad yesterday (Nov. 23) at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, carrying the New Shepard space vehicle. The stunning feat was captured in an amazing test flight video released by the company.


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Gecko's amazing wall-walking talent is all in the genes

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Geckos boast one of the most impressive talents of any animal: the ability to scamper up a smooth wall or across a ceiling with ease. Scientists on Tuesday said they have sequenced the genome of the gecko species Gekko japonicus, or Schlegel's Japanese gecko, and found the genetic underpinning of the lizard's gravity-defying feat. The scientists found in Gekko japonicus an expansion in the genes related to beta-keratin, accounting for the gecko's ability to generate its setae.

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Amazon founder Bezos’ rocket company passes landing test

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space transportation company, Blue Origin, successfully landed a suborbital rocket back at its launch site, a key step in its drive to make reusable rockets, the company said on Tuesday. The New Shepard rocket, which is designed to carry six passengers, blasted off from a launch site in West Texas at 12:21 p.m. CST (1821 GMT) on Monday. The rocket reached an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) – breaching the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space – and landed back at the launch site eight minutes later, the company said.


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Round for Round: Women's Drinking Rates Catching Up to Men's

Over the decade-long period between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of U.S. women who reported drinking in the past month increased, and so did the the average number of days that women reported drinking, according to the report from researchers at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The percentage of women who reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days increased from 45 percent to 48 percent over the study period. Among men, however, the percentage decreased slightly, from 57 percent to 56 percent, according to the findings published today (Nov. 23) in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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Lonely? You May Be More Likely to Get Sick

Loneliness may be a health risk and can even increase a person's risk of premature death, studies have shown, but the reason for the link hasn't been clear. Now, researchers have found one way that loneliness may affect a person's health: It may trigger cellular changes that might lower a person's ability to fight viral infections. In a study of 141 older adults, researchers looked at the relationship between loneliness and patterns of gene expression in white blood cells, which are involved in protecting the body against viruses and bacteria.

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Goodbye, Nola: Only 3 Northern White Rhinos Remain in the World

One of the four northern white rhinoceros left on Earth died yesterday (Nov. 22), leaving only three surviving members of the critically endangered species. In recent weeks, Nola suffered from a bacterial infection, and on Nov. 13, the aging animal underwent surgery to drain a large abscess in her pelvic region, which veterinarians finally identified as the source of her sickness. When intensified treatment efforts were unsuccessful, the animal's caretakers chose to euthanize her yesterday, in what was a "difficult decision," according to a statement released by the San Diego Zoo.


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Beetles Speed-Grow Their Built-In Bifocal Eyes

Sunburst diving beetles, also known as "water tigers," are efficient predators that depend on their eyes to help them nab their mosquito prey. Each tube holds a lens, cone and retina, which are features common to the image-forming eyes in most vertebrates (and some invertebrates) known as "camera eyes." In camera eyes, images enter the eye through the lens and are reflected onto the retina. "Functionally, their eyes are more similar to our own eyes than to a fruit fly or other insect," Elke Buschbeck, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, and co-author of the new study, told Live Science.


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Mars May Become a Ringed Planet Someday

In a few tens of millions of years, the Red Planet may completely crush its innermost moon, Phobos, and form a ring of rocky debris, according to the new work. Phobos is moving closer to Mars every year, meaning the planet's gravitational pull on the satellite is increasing. Some scientists have theorized that Phobos will eventually collide with Mars, but the new research suggests that the small moon may not last that long.


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NASA Orders 1st Crewed Mission from SpaceX

It's official: SpaceX will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station a few years from now. California-based SpaceX has secured its first astronaut taxi order under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA, agency officials announced Friday (Nov. 20). "It's really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement.


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1,700-Year-Old Ring Depicts Nude Cupid, the Homewrecking God

An intricately carved gold ring containing a stone engraved with an image of Cupid — a god associated with erotic love — has been discovered near the village of Tangley in the United Kingdom. The ring dates back around 1,700 years, to a time when the Roman Empire controlled England. The ring was discovered by an amateur metal detectorist.


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Some of Earth's Rocky Plates Are Gooey on the Inside

Tectonic plates may be similar to chocolate candies: Stiff on the outside, but as soft as marshmallow fluff on the inside. That is the conclusion of a new study that suggests at least some of the rigid plates that cover the Earth's surface may be stretchier than thought. The plate tectonics findings, which were described today (Nov. 23) in the journal Nature Geoscience, are based on investigations of the region under Peru, where the Nazca Plate is diving beneath the continental South American Plate.


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More Infant Deaths Blamed on Crib Bumpers

The number of infant deaths linked to crib bumpers has increased in recent years, according to a new study. Crib bumpers are padded blankets that can be placed inside a crib, to prevent a baby's limbs from getting stuck between the slats. In the new study, researchers found that, over the seven-year period between 2006 and 2012, there were 23 deaths tied to crib bumpers reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Scientists create mosquito strain with malaria-blocking genes

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists aiming to take the bite out of malaria have produced a strain of mosquitoes carrying genes that block its transmission, with the idea that they could breed with other members of their species in the wild and produce offspring that cannot spread the disease. The researchers said on Monday they used gene-editing, a genetic engineering technique in which DNA can be inserted, replaced or deleted from a genome, on a species called Anopheles stephensi that spreads malaria in urban India. Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes.


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Scientists create mosquito strain with malaria-blocking genes

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists aiming to take the bite out of malaria have produced a strain of mosquitoes carrying genes that block its transmission, with the idea that they could breed with other members of their species in the wild and produce offspring that cannot spread the disease. The researchers said on Monday they used gene-editing, a genetic engineering technique in which DNA can be inserted, replaced or deleted from a genome, on a species called Anopheles stephensi that spreads malaria in urban India. Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes.


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How Earth's Hidden Magma Ocean Formed

The rotation of the newborn Earth may have helped to control the evolution of a giant magma ocean sitting on top of its core, researchers say. Knowing how Earth's magma oceans evolved over time could shed light on when the plate tectonics— the shifting of the rocky slabs that make up the planet and underlie earthquakes and volcanoes — began, scientists added. Previous calculations suggested that Earth possessed one or more giant oceans of magma, or molten rock.


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Scientists create mosquito strain with malaria-blocking genes

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists aiming to take the bite out of malaria have produced a strain of mosquitoes carrying genes that block its transmission, with the idea that they could breed with other members of their species in the wild and produce offspring that cannot spread the disease. The researchers said on Monday they used gene-editing, a genetic engineering technique in which DNA can be inserted, replaced or deleted from a genome, on a species called Anopheles stephensi that spreads malaria in urban India. Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes.


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For Severe Weather, 'Is This Climate Change?' Is the Wrong Question (Op-Ed)

For the first five years of his career, Alex Rodriguez averaged 37 home runs a season. Then, he moved to the Texas Rangers, where his average swelled to 52 home runs a season. A-Rod's other statistics — runs batted in, slugging average — rose as well.


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Carbon Falling, Economies Rising: Expectations for the Paris Climate Summit (Op-Ed)?

Lynn Scarlett is the global managing director for public policy at The Nature Conservancy. Recently, she served as the deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior and acting secretary of the Interior in 2006 during the George W. Bush administration.

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Einstein's Unfinished Dream: Marrying Relativity to the Quantum World

Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab, the U.S.' largest Large Hadron Collider research institution. Lincoln contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. This November marks the centennial of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.


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'Letterlocked' Trove: X-Rays to Peer into Sealed 17th-Century Notes

For years, Jana Dambrogio, a conservator at MIT, has been studying the elaborate ways people used to fold and seal their letters to keep busybodies and spies from reading their secrets. The way a paleontologist analyzes fossils to reconstruct extinct creatures, Dambrogio looks at the blobs of wax and the folding patterns on flat, already-opened letters in manuscript collections so that she can reverse-engineer "letterlocking" techniques. "He asked me, 'What would you do if I told you there was a trunk with 600 unopened letters?'"Dambrogio said.


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Scientists on quest for friction-free oil

By Matthew Stock Scientists from BP are applying molecular science in their laboratories to make the perfect oil blend to reduce engine friction and increase efficiency. According to the company, friction caused by various metal-to-metal contact points is a major problem for car engines; costing the UK economy an estimated 24 billion pounds (36.2 billion USD) each year through lost efficiency and damage through wear and tear. The only barrier between the high-force contacts of engine surfaces is a thin layer of lubricant, but they are coming under increasing pressure from modern engines. ...

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Songbirds Woo Mates with Invisible Tap Dance

With the help of high-speed video, researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany have discovered that blue-capped cordon-bleu songbirds (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus) perform foot-stomping step dances during their courtship displays that are too quick to view with the naked eye. Because the birds only start tapping when their potential mates are on the same perch, the study authors think the dancers might punctuate the display with pleasing sounds or vibrations.


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Green car technologies collide in Los Angeles

By Alexandria Sage LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Asian automakers are opening up a new front in the contest to define the future of cars in California, fielding a flock of cars powered by hydrogen in a bid to woo green car buyers from Tesla Motors Inc, the battery electric vehicle leader. Toyota, Honda and Hyundai used the opening days of the Los Angeles auto show, which draws thousands of car enthusiasts in one of the world's richest vehicle markets, to tout new fuel-cell cars. Automakers plan to offer these cars in California, although the rollout will be limited.


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Antarctica Is Gaining Ice, So Why Is the Earth Still Warming?

NASA recently released a study suggesting that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is gaining more ice than it is losing — a finding that, at first blush, seems to contradict the idea of global warming. So, how can Antarctica be gaining ice mass in a warming world where ice sheets are collapsing and the melting is predicted to increase sea levels across the globe?


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Cyborg Roses Wired with Self-Growing Circuits

Scientists have created a kind of cyborg flower: living roses with tiny electronic circuits threaded through their vascular systems. The miniscule electronic polymers are inserted into the plant, then almost magically self-assemble thanks to the rose's internal structure. "In a sense, the plant is helping to organize the electronic devices," said study co-author Magnus Berggren, an organic electronics researcher at Linköping University in Sweden.


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These Ancient Monster Galaxies Have Scientists Perplexed

New research has revealed 574 massive, ancient galaxies lurking in the night sky, and their existence so close to the time of the Big Bang calls into question scientists' best understanding of how large galaxies form. A new video released Wednesday (Nov. 18) from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) reveals the ancient galaxies' locations. "We are talking about massive galaxies, twice as massive as the Milky Way today," said Karina Caputi, an astronomer at University of Groningen in the Netherlands and lead author on the new work.


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